Archive for the ‘government shutdown’ Tag

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But, first, here my take. It is the defining moment of a democracy when an outgoing leader celebrates the election of a new one, from the opposing party. Think of George H.W. Bush welcoming Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter doing the same for Ronald Reagan.

Across the world, this is the acid test of a real democracy. Mexicans will tell you that they knew that they had gotten there when their president, Ernesto Zedillo, after 70 years of one-party rule, allowed free elections and stood with the newly elected successor and affirmed his legitimacy.

The basic and powerful idea behind this ritual is that in a democracy, the process is more important than the outcome. If a genuine democratic process has been followed, we have to accept the results, regardless of how much we may dislike them.

The ultimate example of this in recent American history might be Al Gore’s elegant acceptance of the process


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it.


ZAKARIA: Complicated, politicized, but utterly constitutional that put George W. Bush in the White House.

It must also have been very difficult for Richard Nixon to report the results of the 1960 election when John F. Kennedy won by a razor- thin margin and was marred by voter fraud, but he did. However much you dislike the outcome, you respect the democratic process.

That is what is at stake in Washington this week. The debate going on there was not trivial, not transitory and not about Obamacare. Whatever you think about the Affordable Care Act, it is a law that was passed by the House of Representatives, then the Senate, signed by the president, and then validated by the Supreme Court as constitutional.

That doesn’t mean it cannot be repealed. Of course it can be repealed, as can most laws. But to do so, you would need another piece of legislation, one that says quite simply “The Affordable Care Act is hereby repealed in its entirety” and that would have to then pass the House, the Senate and be signed into law by the president.

What you cannot do, what cannot be allowed to stand is the notion that if a group of legislators cannot convince a majority in both houses and the president to agree with them, would then shut down the government or threaten to default until they got their way. That is not democracy. That is extortion.

I would be happy to see President Barack Obama compromise on the budget, taxes, spending, even Obamacare, but he cannot compromise on the principle that the rules of democracy must be respected, whatever the outcome.

If Democrats had threatened to shut down the government or default on the debt to force the repeal of the Bush tax cuts or to defund the Iraq War, I would have hoped that President George Bush would have also been uncompromising.

America’s power and influence abroad derives in large measure from the strength of its democracy. And if politicians here start playing fast and loose with the rules, doing whatever it takes to get the results that they want, what does that say to people in Russia, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela who get pious lectures on the rules of democracy from Americans?

It tells them that something is deeply rotten with the American system right now.

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Countless lawsuits where the United States is a party are now in limbo, thanks to the fact that the Justice Department lacks the resources to litigate them so long as the government is shut down. One of these lawsuits is a nearly two year old case brought by House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) seeking to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failing to turn over documents Issa believes will prove embarrassing to the Obama Administration.

Yet, unlike numerous other lawsuits that were stayed while the Justice Department waits for the shutdown to end, Issa believes that he should not have to live with one of the consequences of the shutdown he and his fellow House Republicans are responsible for — he filed a motion claiming that DOJ’s “Contingency Plan provides that Department employees may continue to work on matters necessary to the discharge of the President’s constitutional duties and powers,” and that his lawsuit qualifies.

Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson was not amused by this motion:

There are no exigent circumstances in this case that would justify an order of the Court forcing furloughed attorneys to return to their desks. Moreover, while the vast majority of litigants who now must endure a delay in the progress of their matters do so due to circumstances beyond their control, that cannot be said of the House of Representatives, which has played a role in the shutdown that prompted the stay motion.

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A congressional watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against a Republican lawmaker who was caught on camera berating a park ranger over a memorial closed as part of the government shutdown.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) demanded to know why the National Park Service Ranger was keeping most tourists out of the World War II Memorial, although visiting veterans had been permitted to enter by the Interior Department.

The lawmaker, who helped set up the shutdown by voting with his House Republican colleagues to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act, told the park ranger she should be ashamed of herself.

Footage of the confrontation Wednesday between Neugebauer, the park ranger and a crowd gathered at the memorial was shot by NBC News.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against Neugebauer, saying his conduct violated the requirement that lawmakers act “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.”

The group’s executive director, Melanie Sloan, told Raw Story the congressman had angered her for humiliating the park ranger by treating the woman with disrespect in front of a group of people.

“You can’t shut down the government and then go yell at a park ranger as if she had some role in it,” Sloan said.

Sloan said she doubted the ethics committee would take steps to punish Neugebauer, but she hoped he’d at least be sent a letter of reprimand.

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The hard-line stance of Republican House members on the government shutdown is generating increasing anger among senior Republican officials, who say the small bloc of conservatives is undermining the party and helping President Obama just as the American people appeared to be losing confidence in him. ….

“Fighting with the president is one thing,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri. “Fighting with the president and losing is another thing. When you’re in the minority you need to look really hard to find the fights you can win.”

The complaints come from fervent opponents of the president’s health care overhaul, who say that the shutdown is overshadowing discussion of the problems associated with the law and ruining any chance for revising it.

“This is a huge distraction,” said Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee. “Instead of that being the conversation, we’re talking about the government shutdown, and the average citizen can’t help but say the Republican Congress isn’t helping.”

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Stewart “For those just joining the story in progress, our government is going to shut down in 57 of your earth minutes because House Republicans are refusing to fund the government unless the rest of Congress delays implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, also known as the end of America as we know it for reasons no one is able to clearly explain.”

Stewart “Are you familiar with how the world works? Did you see the Giants game on Sunday? OK, they lost 31 to 7. And you know what the Giants didn’t say after that game? If you don’t give us 25 more points by midnight on Monday, we will shut down the bleeping NFL.”–shutdown-eve

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Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, Published: September 30 at 8:36 am

Here’s how today’s Wonkbook was supposed to start: We’re about 16 hours from open enrollment in Obamacare going live. The law, which has dominated American politics for three years even as it’s been an abstraction to most Americans, is about to become very real.

But here’s how it actually has to start: We’re about 16 hours away from a government shutdown. That’s more than enough time for the House and Senate to both pass a bill averting a shutdown. But the odds of that happening are increasingly remote — and that’s because Obamacare is set to begin in 16 hours.

On Saturday, Speaker Boehner agreed to load the continuing resolution with a one-year delay of Obamacare, a repeal of the medical-device tax, and a “conscience clause” assuring health-care providers they don’t need to offer birth control if they don’t want to. They wrote a bill, in other words, that the Senate can’t accept. His right flank was ecstatic.

“Chants of ‘Vote! Vote! Vote!’ echoed through the room,” report Robert Costa and Jonathan Strong. “Standing in the back, Boehner’s deputies watched the scene and smiled. ‘People went bonkers,’ says Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona. Representative John Culberson of Texas was so enthused that he yelled, ‘Let’s roll!’ after hearing Boehner’s remarks. Culberson later told reporters he was alluding to the cry of United 93 passenger Todd Beamer.”

All this for a bill that House Republicans know the Senate will reject.

So the federal government will probably shut down tonight. And, at about the same moment, Obamacare will go live, as the shutdown does little to impede the law.

There’s a silver lining in this for Obamacare, as well as a real danger.

The Obama administration has been a bit afraid of October 1st. After all, no major product launches without a hitch, and Obama is more major, and facing more politicized scrutiny, than almost any product the federal government has ever launched. The fear was that things would go wrong on October 1st and the press, looking for dramatic stories of Obamacare glitches, would swarm the anecdotes, giving the public the impression that the law was a failure even as most of it was working fine and the bugs were being quickly fixed.

But with a government shutdown and a looming debt-ceiling crisis obsessing the media and the country, the media simply has less bandwidth to cover the rollout of the health-care law. That gives the administration, as well as the states, a bit more breathing room to find and fix bugs in the early days without seeing the law declared a failure.

The downside for the law is that less focus on Obamacare means fewer people hearing that the insurance marketplaces have gone live, and thus fewer people knowing they should go and sign up for coverage. The Obama administration, some of the states, and a consortium of outside actors all have plans to promote the law through paid media in the coming weeks and months, but the launch could’ve earned them a lot of valuable free media.

But all of this speaks to why the Republican Party is so frightened. Until now, Obamacare has been an abstraction. You can repeal an abstraction. Tomorrow, it becomes a reality. And reality is a lot harder to repeal.